I realize I give England a hard time sometimes, I tease it a bit about some of its strange "attributes". What can I say? Cynicism about a place is one of the most common side effects of homesickness. When I’m feeling insecure and a little freaked it helps me feel better when I say things like “What the bleep is this deal with bank tellers trying to sell me mobile phone insurance every time I go into the bank to pay my credit card bill? And why the bleep can’t they SORT MY ACCOUNT OUT SO I CAN BLEEPING PAY MY CREDIT CARD BILL ONLINE??????” See, it’s a way for me to shift the focus of misery off of myself and onto some silly blond girl with 6 brain cells. I know it’s not fair, I know it’s wrong. But anyone who has lived abroad for any extended period of time will tell you this is completely normal mental behaviour. The truth is that I’d probably get annoyed with a bank teller anywhere in the world, this is not something special or unique about England. Another truth is that England really isn’t so bad at all, in fact, I love England, I’m still a little giddy that I get to live here. So since I’m feeling particularly generous on this Friday morning I’m going to make a little top ten shout out list (in no particular order) to those wonderful things that makes England the magnificently beautiful place that it is…
1. Pubs. Hands down the best part about England. Where you will feel and experience the essence of British life through chatting with the locals, taking in the atmosphere, drinking a pint of glorious beer by a hot crackling wood fire, trading gossip with the barman, and enjoying the company of good people
2. English People. What’s most remarkable about the English people I know is that their greatest resource is their own character. Their historical record of endurance and perseverance regardless of the circumstances or consequences has set them apart as a race that exudes a rare kind of permanence. Not a grim or stoic kind but one based on justice and a sense of fair play and tempered with cheerful, joyful and often creative confidence. Such people known intimately make great friends (and spouses:)).
3. The Scenery. Hello, I still get tears in my eyes sometimes just driving through our village. How can such spectacular places exist, and how did I get so lucky to get to live in one??
4. The Soaps. English television can be so shockingly bad that it is actually deliciously good. I don’t know how that’s even possible but it is; watch one episode of Eastenders and you’ll understand. I’m not even ashamed to admit that I haven’t missed an episode since I moved here. Seriously, that’s not an exaggeration. And we didn’t even have a tv until 2 months ago, so I often had to go to great lengths to catch up on the happenings in Albert Square.
5. No ATM fees. I know it’s a small thing, but I really appreciate that I can use any bank’s ATM machine to get cash out and not have to pay a fee. It makes me want to get money out more often and spend it just because it seems free. Hmm, I think I might have just unlocked one of the secrets of English consumerism.
6. Holidays. I get 20 personal days off per year (I get two more next year :)), 8 public holidays, 5 paid sick days (cough cough, what? How did I get to Mallorca? I’m joking!!) and because of the remarkably relaxed work ethic in these parts I get a few half days and full days off from time to time just because. Which is why such terms as POETS day exist--which means Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday, and at my office we like to abide by that rule pretty much every day. Also, I only work 37.5 hours per week, and by work I mean appear to work. Just kidding. Really, I do work. Sometimes. So lets see, that’s like roughly 35 days off per year. Give or take. Oh yeah, and this year we get an extra day off for the Royal wedding, HOLLER!!
7. Maternity Leave. Woah woah woah, hold your horses. Mom, put the babies r us catalog down. I’m not saying this is something I’ll necessarily benefit from, but if I do happen to be fortunate enough (read: crazy enough) to have babies here I will get a year of maternity leave and will get paid for 9 of those months. Per baby. So I’m thinking how about I have 10 babies in a row and then by the time that’s over it’ll be just about time for me to retire. I know this logic probably appears to be flawed, but with a good team of nannies anything is possible.
8. Pasties, crumpets, parsnips and rhubarb. The best additions to my diet since moving here.
9. History and culture. Each and every place, from the smallest village to the biggest city has some connection to an important historical event, or has the oldest church pew or a pub where a famous outlaw was shot or a hill where a king stopped to do a wee while taking in the view. You can’t walk 10 feet in any direction without seeing something old and significant as far as history is concerned. Which is why England is such a good place for day tripping, you don’t even have to have a destination in mind, just get in the car with a few snacks and drive and wherever you stop you’ll be glad you did.
10. The buildings. I’ve mentioned how our house has oodles of character, as do pretty much all houses in this country. I love love love gazing at the houses and buildings in England, from the crooked little thatched cottages to the mile long rows of terraced houses. I can’t even begin to describe my obsession with chimney pots and wooden beams. Creaky wooden floors? Mmmm! Wee little Hobbit sized doors with a knob in the middle? Yes! Tiny iron gates that open into delightfully colourful patio gardens? YES PLEASE!! Crooked walls? Asymmetrical rooms? Leaded windows with 17th century ironmongery? Stop! It’s too much!
So there you have it people, my top ten list of English loves. But wait, there’s more! I didn’t even mention cream teas, Exmoor Gold, the public right of way system, the national parks, castles, our proximity to the coast, British Airways or English accents. The wonderful things about England are so much greater than annoying bank tellers or the lack of public restrooms. It is a place that inspires and delights, it is rich and lovely and good, and by remembering these things I’m able to stave off homesickness when it occasionally strikes. I love it here.